Glenn Greenwald on U.S. Govt anthrax scientist's suicide


Glenn Greewald's article in Salon about Bruce E. Ivins' suicide is fascinating. Ivins was a senior biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. He committed suicide in July shortly before the FBI was going to indict him for his alleged role in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Here are a few excerpts, but the entire article is worth reading:

If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks.
During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

But bentonite was never found in the anthrax, and Greenwald says ABC News didn't acknowledged this until 2007, and only after Greenwald's "badgering them about this issue." That means, says Greenwald, the four "well-placed and separate sources" ABC claimed to have fed them "false information that created a very significant link in the public mind between the anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein."

After all, three days later, McCain and Joe Lieberman went on Meet the Press (on October 21, 2001) and both strongly suggested that we would have to attack Iraq. Lieberman said that the anthrax was so complex and potent that "there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program."

As I said, it is not possible to overstate the importance of anthrax in putting the country into the state of fear that led to the attack on Iraq and so many of the other abuses of the Bush era. There are few news stories more significant, if there are any, than unveiling who the culprits were behind this deliberate propaganda. The fact that the current GOP presidential nominee claimed back then on national television to have some "indication" linking Saddam to the anthrax attacks makes it a bigger story still.

Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News (Salon)


  1. I find myself wanting to crack a joke about watching an Oliver Stone movie on the subject because I don’t want to believe our government could be behind something like this.

  2. a) bentonite, hmmm. 1st time I ever heard of that stuff (~1980) it was being used as a high end waterproofing top coat on the foundations of AT&T switching buildings, because it expands 40x when wet blocking out water. It is basically clay. Halliburton does mine the stuff, but that doesn’t make it evil. Folks even eat the stuff on purpose to get healthy.

    b) Didn’t Saddam get his initial chemical weapons chops from the USA? (Iran Iraq War)

    c) Was it not concluded quite early on in the anthrax investigation that the anthrax sent to the Senate offices was obviously “weaponized” by being so finely ground and pure that it could not have been done anywhere but in a US military lab?

  3. “I don’t want to believe our government could be behind something like this.”

    He he. When you’ve got some spare time, take a look at any date on the Daily Bleed calendar.

    Our government could be behind hundreds of things like this.

  4. McCain and Lieberman claimed to know something?

    Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

  5. What we know for certain is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims. Feeding claims to ABC News designed to link Saddam to those attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax attackers. How did he pass a background check for the Army when his psychiatrist called him a homicidal threat?

    The anthrax was high grade US military toxin that somehow got sent only to Democrats potentially opposed to the “Patriot Act”.

    This was another Cheney inside job leading up to the invasions and war on the American people.

  6. Hold on there sparky! It’s a pretty big leap from this story to saying Dick Cheney ordered anthrax sent to congressmen. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but:

    1. We don’t know Ivins sent the stuff in the first place.

    2. If he did, we don’t know that he wasn’t acting alone.

    I would certainly assume that having learned of the anthrax attack, the spin machine worked overtime to blame it on Saddam Hussein, because that’s what they were doing then. I’ll also say unlike the twin towers conspiracy theories, this one has the benefit of being more plausible because it could involve a lot fewer people. I just don’t want to see a perfectly good crime spoiled by early ranting.

  7. The operation was obvious from the get-go. Only Democratic congresspeople (as I recall) were killed for the most part, Iraq was blamed, and somehow it was impossible to trace a bloody mailbox. And the US the only plausible source of the strain. Like the Russian polonium, it was quite the in-your-face signature. Some G. Gordon Liddy of the moment played us for suckers. And it had to go quite a way up to the top for them to have access to anthrax.

    As so many things were back then (and still are), calling attention to the obvious gets you named a nutjob. And sometimes I think the entire 9-11-is-a-conspiracy movement was itself a false flag, a psy-op to discredit criticism by creating something ready at hand for a newscaster to conflate questions with lunacy.

    Reporter Seymour Hersh, eternal enemy of the Nixonians now running the White House, said this week that Cheney had planned a false flag operation in Iran, by putting SEaLs into Iranian gear and setting off a provocation to start the war to take Iran’s oil, thus completing the “PNAC” plan to control the world by choking the oil supply (and making a fre trillion in extra profit while they were at it). Any of you seriously think killing a couple of liberals in Congress would stonker a man who is intentionally starting another bloodbath with a body count potentially in the millions?

  8. @stevew

    Yes, he got the strain from us. And the strain had expired in the nineties — dead as canasta. A little fact for ya, anthrax doesn’t last long in storage. Another obvious fact to anyone who actually researched the subject, as *no* reporter did, instead taking dictation from the White House, AKA Cheney and his merry pack of lying murderers. Another fact: the USA was the only country with weaponized anthrax ready to go.

    The lies are so gigantic, so numerous, that we’ve been snowed in by them. Where do you start?

  9. Bentonite is a form of clay. It is the stuff that “clumping” cat litter is made from.

    Why add Bentonite to a lyophilized involution form of Anthrax? Why, to make it fluffy and easily airborne.

    Look, wizards – anybody with a decent education in microbiology has all that they need to create most of these beasties themselves – they occur in nature….

    What really stinks to the high heaven is that the strain was the Ames Strain – and Ft. Detrick weaponized and keeps a supply of that deadly variant on hand. How did any of it go missing without an audit caching it years ago?

    Either we are to believe that the wizards at Ft. Detrick are totally incompetent – and, given the nature of their “toys” they can’t be that incompetent or they would be dead – or, we have to assume that the missing Anthrax was never “missing” but was requisitioned through channels and sent somewhere, where it was then placed into the post and sent on its deadly way.

    Given the lies that this administration has fed us and the close proximity in time of the Anthrax letters to the vote on the Patriot Act and the fact that Democrats were targets – and that 7 years go by before a convenient suicide ends the case …. well, the story makes Oliver Stone sound believable.

  10. There was really no one else in charge but Cheney. Who else, Bush? Cheney ordered the plane shot down, rather than Bush, Cheney was in charge of the situation, no matter what, that bastard has his hands in everything. Bush – face it – is a moron. Cheney has ungodly power for a VP, another odd fact that no one questions. Cheney was part of a miniature political power group roughly analogous to PNAC that wanted to remake the world by taking over the Iranian and Iraqi oil fields. When Saudia Arabia hit us – by our standards of logic, really it was SA – we hit Afghanistan and then Iraq. IRAQ??? Al Qaeda was in Pakistan – it still is. Why are we attacking the oil fields? War my ass. They’ve let their pocket Satan run free for years. They’ve got the oil, and it IS Cheney who engineered it all, with his three-man intelligence review team massaging data, with Cheney sitting on the CIA quite literally in the days leading up to the war, smothering them and setting them up for the fall in one evil, sick package deal.

  11. With all the surveillance that started even before 9-11 (contrary to usual wisdom, Poindexter started Carnivore before the attack), and with targeted congresspeople killed, one wonders if the Democratic surrender to inferior numbers has less to do with the election and more to do with blackmail and fear. An executive branch that has access to all congressional communications is de facto a blackmailer, even if not a single threat is made. The knowledge that they can run back the clock and see everything you’ve typed or spoken or written, see your cell phone historical movements – how many call girls, how many mistresses, how many payoffs are waiting to be datamined in the history of any Democrat who squeaks up? Kucinich must have balls of antiseptic surgical steel. And let’s not go into how the Democrats were made party to the tortures and spying as well, so they’d frankly have to arrest themselves if they were investigated.

  12. The really sad thing is hearing stuff like this and knowing the vast majority of the public wont, or wont listen.

  13. @mdhatter #5

    isn’t that supposed to be:

    “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again.”

  14. Catbeller, famed in song, story, and comments #8, #9, #11, and #12:

    I hate to interrupt somebody when they’re posting a bunch of inflammatory diatribes, but would you please refresh my memory about the Congresspeople who were killed?

    It’d help me give some credence to the rest of your comments, which I have not yet read carefully, if I had the feeling they were based on actual facts.

  15. What are you jackasses talking about? No members of Congress were killed. Targeted, but not killed.

    Like usual, it was random folks who got in the way that got killed.

  16. I hate treading upon conspiracy theory ground but the minute I read this I thought of the “DC Madam”, Deborah Jeane Palfrey. Another investigation that ends with a suicide.

    What I don’t get is:

    A top army scientist can manage to get anthrax out of a lab and mail it around the country. Not exactly the same as sneaking ball point pens out of the office. I wonder what other little bugs could be walked out of that lab.

    And then there’s the Minot Air Base “Bent Spear” incident where a few nuclear weapons took a little jaunt to Louisiana.

    It reminds me of the scene in “Young Frankenstein” where the “Abnormal Brain” is on the shelf next to the “Hans Delbruck, Scientist and Saint” brain. I have to wonder if our nations weapons are set up the same way.

    Oh well, maybe we should just blame it on The Army of the 12 Monkeys.

  17. I am sure the great patriots at the helm are willing to make any sacrifice of noble citizen life for the greater good.

  18. Hey, I got a buddy who knows that the explosives used to bring down the Twin Towers were planted when they were built!

    Neener neener.

    Kucinich, whaaaa? God bless ‘im. If he didn’t have a note on his bathroom mirror Breathe! to see every morning he’d be out of office. But now that he a has a good health care plan and a nice pension for the rest of his life, it’s all gravy from here on out.

  19. @Tharklord

    There’s an easier explanation than conspiracy here. Pretty straightforward, actually: Nearly every person in charge of anything anywhere is an utter idiot. Sure, there are well-meaning idiots, and malicious idiots, but just about everyone from the president to the guy who’s in charge of the nuclear warheads, to the person who’s supposed to keep people from wandering off with weaponized anthrax, can be counted on to be completely, hopelessly incompetent and incapable of doing anything more than creating the appearance that they’re actually doing their job, all the while desperately hoping that nobody notices, never understanding that everyone around them is incompetent too.

    Wow, that was a really long sentence. I think I might be an idiot, too. Please disregard.

  20. “Fear not, loyal patriots! While it may look like we’ll throw you in the garbage once you’ve outlived your usefulness, rest assured that a certificate of commendation will be inserted in your secret file.”:-)

  21. @#16, LittleJohn:

    You imply that the evidence contradicts what Catbeller has to say, even including a link (oddly, back to one of CB’s comments).

    All the evidence I see (e.g., see supports Catbeller. The only targets of the anthrax mailings were the offices of two highly placed Democratic senators opposed to the Patriot Act, and a number of news media, particularly left leaning, and notably omitting Fox.

  22. Well, at least we can get back to racial profiling now. By picking up and questioning all the white guys.

  23. After reading about it, I just tried to kill myself by eating bentonite clay. Instead of dying, I feel like it cleaned out my system or someting. I hear Iraq produces some Dihydrogen monoxide, I’ve decided to douse myself with that next and hope I’ll finally end myself.

  24. so, are you actually gonna get an election this autumn? or else will there be a national emergency that requires it to be delayed indefinitely?

  25. Ever wonder if the Delphi Technique is actively employed by strategic commenters in discussions about controversial issues such as this?

    Look, some people commit suicide. Of those, some will be key witnesses capable of providing damaging testimony. It’s just statistics.

    Quit thinking. Go see what’s on TV.

  26. STEVEW@3: “c) Was it not concluded quite early on in the anthrax investigation that the anthrax sent to the Senate offices was obviously “weaponized” by being so finely ground and pure that it could not have been done anywhere but in a US military lab?”

    As CATBELLER said @9, you got that in reverse. We knew quite early actually that it could only have been made in the US. Now everyone can know for certain.

    NOEN@6: Well said!

    CATBELLER@8: “And sometimes I think the entire 9-11-is-a-conspiracy movement was itself a false flag, a psy-op to discredit criticism by creating something ready at hand for a newscaster to conflate questions with lunacy.

    -No, that’s what the “we never went to the moon” disinformation is about. You hit the key word on the head: lunacy.

    CATBELLER@11 & 12: Compelling arguments, although I think you have to make room in that company for Mr. Rove. Also, you should have said “attacked” instead of “killed” since they were not successful. Consider also that Kucenich may have not taken any payoffs or been surveilled so as to have any dirt on him. It makes him all the more the rare exception, but it also explains a lot.

    GROLAN@10: Good points, but remember from this article that no bentonite was ever present in the 2001 anthrax attacks. Ever! Where did it come from? The same govt. agency that told ABC news the lies about about bentonite being present. Why won’t ABC news tell us specifically who told them that?

    MOONRACER@13: Very true! We can only share what we know with people who trust or respect us and try to get folks to listen with an open mind, if possible, and point to objective, reliable sources. That’s why it’s sad that ABC has gone the way of Faux News, and joined the Ministry of Information. Sad to say CBS has too, with covering up for a certain Republican presumed nominee’s recent flubs.

    TAK#19: “Suicides”: Don’t forget Kenny Lay, now…

    PRESTHERJOHN@29: Nice! Sarcasm so thick you could eat it with a fork, but use a spoon to get every drop…

  27. CATBELLER@11 & 12: I didn’t mean to say that Kucenich hasn’t been surveilled, only that they probably haven’t caught him doing anything unseemly or against the law. He seems like a straight up guy to me.

  28. There’s a whole bunch of stories from around that time (and of course before and since) that surface briefly in the news and then disappear. It would be refreshing if the more diligent of the MSM could actually follow them up once in a while.

    With my tinfoil hat on, one of my favourites is the story that the tube bombings in London happened at the same time as a training exercise designed to test the support service’s ability to respond to a tube bombing. I have this persistent image in my head of middle eastern students being recruited to carry fake bombs as part of the exercise and some shadowy organisation succeeding in swapping them for real bombs at the last minute. But that’s just paranoia, right?

  29. The creation of permanent U.S. military facilities in the M.E. was a long-term objective of the U.S., Israeli, and Saudi Arabian governments, through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

    In December of 1998, Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act. The Senate was unanimous and the House voted with an overwhelming majority. Al Gore publicly supported this Act.

    Since many members of the Bush administration signed the Letter sent to Clinton by the PNAC in January of 1998, it is obvious the Bush administration came into office determined to invade Iraq and build permanent military bases there.

    This administration, knowing their opportunity to act was limited, was going to do whatever it took to continue the process started by Clinton and Gore of turning public opinion to war.

    Saddam was a dangerous, murderous fool who did not understand he was playing into their hands. In fact, the administration in a brilliant move did everything they could to convince Saddam we were not going to invade. With this false understanding Saddam continued his theatrics instead of defusing the situation by more openly cooperating and bringing in impartial observers.

    Almost immediately after coming into office, Bush continued the drumbeat started by Clinton that Iraq, under Saddam, was an unholy evil threat to her neighbors and us. Bush also continued making the same allegations started by Clinton and Gore that Iraq had or was making biological weapons of mass destruction and started making the probably false connection between Iraq and al Qa’ ida.

    So, here we are, where we were always going to be, pre-positioned for the finale showdown over Middle Eastern oil and in a strong position to support our allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. Get used to it, because we are never going to withdraw from Iraq until the last drop of oil is out of the ground.

  30. I forgot somehow to add the following to my previous post. This fits between the last two paragraphs.

    Now fast-forward through 9-11, Bush standing on the smoking pile, anthrax attacks, and Colin Powell sitting in the U.N. holding a vial full of a white powder to scare not just every American, but the rest of the world. Never forget Rumsfeld saying, we know they have them, we know where they are.

  31. A British weapons expert, Dr. David Kelly, was found dead a few days after calling “bullshit” on the notion that Iraq had any WMD capability.

    There was never any suggestion Kelly did anything other than offer his opinion at a politically inopportune time, and yet the trauma of being accused and hauled before a Parilamentary committee after spending a lifetime working for the government was apparently enough to push him to take his own life.

    Was Ivins guilty of deliberately carrying out these attacks? Was he tricked into helping someone else carry out the attacks? Was he completely innocent and being hung out to dry?

    I don’t think we can conclude anything from his suicide other than it’s a tradgedy for his family.

  32. Turing, these, others; always good when working for government to keep clear in your mind who you serve.
    Even if he was set up, used and murdered,is his case any more tragic than say atomic veterans or any others used over the years? If he was consciously involved at any level at all, he was less of a victim than countless others.

  33. I’m still awaiting any kind of information on this guy’s possible motives. Was he some kind of ultra-right wing militia type? Was he a muslim convert that sympathised with the 9/11 operators? Or was he merely trying to drum up some funding for his own research (eg, like firefighters that start fires so they can put them out)?

    I haven’t heard anything yet.

    On the other hand, everything about this guy that gets released from here on out will have certainly passed through government hands, so it’ll be hard to figure out what was going on inside this guy’s mnd.

    And of course, he might have had nothing at all to do with with the Anthrax scares.

  34. Innocent or not, it’s quite possible the FBI hounded Ivins to death. They’ve hounded other people over the same issue who they later acknowledged were innocent.

    FTA: “…in June, the government settled a lawsuit with another scientist from Fort Detrick, agreeing to pay Steven Hatfill nearly $6 million amid allegations he was unfairly targeted and humiliated by leaks to the press.”

  35. Ever since I heard about this thing, it’s been eating away at me. I am so angry. If this Ivins was, in fact, the culprit, he was a terrorist who killed five random strangers while trying to kill members of congress. A homegrown, unabomber and McVeigh-style terrorist, in the employ of the United States government–one who was purposely sowing seeds of fear. Once again, a killer who had the whole country terrorized has escaped justice, thanks to the Bush administration. Whether it was through deliberate machinations or sheer force of idiocy doesn’t change my level of anger.

    I don’t buy the argument that perhaps he was just being wrongly hounded and that was why he offed himself. Hatfill got wrongly hounded, and it netted him 6 million bucks.

  36. What about Hatfill? IIRC, he was targeted and then cleared by the FBI. I think Hatfill was trying to help clear Ivins, probably sympathetic to what he was going through as a suspect.

    It’s a mess, I smell a rat and we’ll never know for sure.

  37. FEOTISNAIL@35-39: I continue to be impressed with your observations. You posted also on another thread about the permanent installations that have been built in Iraq, and I’m afraid you are correct. There is a lot of evidence to suggest, however, that we did not invade to ramp up oil production, but to ramp it down; as Hussein was exceeding the OPEC imposed limit, driving the price down, making the oil barons scared. (Sure, it helps that we gave American and British companies no bid contracts, tearing up the old ones.) We know where gas prices have gone since (while now not producing anywhere close to the OPEC production limit.) Isn’t it great what return we are getting from blood for oil?

    KEN@34: Profit motive? Was the guy pedaling cipro? Sure, people were paid off, but why? and by whom?

    From the article: “We now know — we knew even before news of Ivins’ suicide last night, and know especially in light of it — that the anthrax attacks didn’t come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government’s scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government — from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves.”

    Do you really believe, in light of the timing (starting one week after 9-11), the targets (those in key positions who stood up to bushco’s BS being foisted upon us), the warnings handed out to certain govt. officials and members of the press to take cipro beforehand, the notes attempting to put the blame on radical muslims. and the disinfo fed to ABC News; that it was all purely coincidal? Methinks you just enjoy playing devil’s advocate a little too much.

  38. @45
    I was referring to the murder-by-government theory. the British have a long tradition of eating their own.

  39. Phikus:

    The profit was apparently that he had the patent on the vaccine for that strain.

    Which of course, begs the question…how does someone in a US gov’t obtain a patent for something he was working on WHILE employed by said gov’t. Is that something that happens alot? I mean, I know their NAME is on the patent, but do they get monies for it??

  40. “the British have a long tradition of eating their own.”

    I’m sick of this stereotype about British cooking. When I was in London I had lots of excellent food.

  41. BLACKBIRD@52: Thanks. I was unaware that could happen as well (gain a patent privately from your work for the govt.) It still leaves more questions than it answers. The owner would have to know that having that patent would seem like a smoking gun to malicious attacks occurring from anthrax that could only have been refined in that particular US lab (like someone framing someone in a bad movie script.)

  42. And the Genius of it all is that all plans continue as normal, safe in the knowledge that the public will endlessly debate whether the obvious is plausibly deniable, helped along with a little Delphi facilitation.

    Ok, how much I owe for my carbon emmissions now?

  43. BLACKBIRD@52: I’m not sure exactly what the Army policy is but the NIH policy can be found here. The basic idea is :

    PHS generally seeks to patent biomedical technologies when a patent will facilitate and attract investment by commercial partners for further research and commercial development of the technology. Patent protection generally will not be sought by the PHS where further research and development is not necessary to realize the technology’s primary use and future therapeutic, diagnostic, or preventive uses are not reasonably anticipated.

    Of course the inventors on the patent are determined by patent law, not HHS policy. The patent is assigned to and managed by HHS. Inventors do get a fixed percentage of any royalties generated, up to a maximum of $150K/year.

  44. Wurp @#24:

    You imply that the evidence contradicts what Catbeller has to say, even including a link (oddly, back to one of CB’s comments).

    What Catbeller had to say interested me a lot less when it all started with, as a first argument, the claim that “Only Democratic congresspeople (as I recall) were killed” (as mentioned in Comment #8, to which I, oddly, again link).

    In fact, no Senators or Representatives, Democratic or otherwise, were killed.

    The rest of Catbeller’s claims may be completely true, or partially true, or not.

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